How far does stereotype threat reach? The potential detriment of face validity in cognitive ability testing


A common belief is that improvements in a test’s face validity have a positive impact on the performance and perceptions of test takers. However, the stereotype threat literature suggests adding job relevant context to tests could negatively impact the performance of women if that context is traditionally male stereotyped. To test this prediction, 345 participants (n = 236 female) completed either a face valid or generic version of a mathematical and mechanical ability test under conditions of explicit or no explicit stereotype threat. Contrary to stereotype threat theory predictions, face validity had either beneficial or nonsignificant effects on test performance and test perceptions and did not affect the psychometric properties of either test. Implications and recommendations for future research regarding the study of face validity and stereotype threat are discussed.

Human Performance, 24, 1-28
James A. Grand
James A. Grand
Associate Professor, Psychology

I’m a scientist at heart, an organizational psychologist by training, and a lucky dad and husband all the time.